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Obama, Romney trade jokes at Al Smith Dinner

October 19, 2012

President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney traded jokes at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner in New York. The event raised $5 million for local Catholic charities.

“Earlier today, I went shopping at some stores in Midtown,” joked Obama. “I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown.”

Offering tips for debate preparation, Romney referred to the first presidential debate and said, “First, refrain from alcohol for 65 years before the debate. Second, find the biggest available straw man, and then just mercilessly attack him. Big Bird didn’t even see it coming. By the way, in the spirit of 'Sesame Street,' the president's remarks are brought to you tonight by the letter O and the number 16 trillion.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s decision to invite President Obama to the dinner has provoked controversy. While the archdiocese has typically invited both incumbent presidents and their major-party challengers during election years, President Bill Clinton (along with Senator Bob Dole) was not invited in 1996 and Senator John Kerry was not invited in 2004.

“It’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one,” Cardinal Dolan wrote in August. “Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States. And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences.”


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  • Posted by: nix898049 - Oct. 21, 2012 8:59 PM ET USA

    So, how has that open dialogue with the administration been working out for you so far?

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Oct. 20, 2012 2:10 PM ET USA

    I found it refreshing to see the candidates poking fun at themselves instead of throwing around the awful stuff we've been subjected to. I can picture Jesus sitting down with them having a meal.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Oct. 20, 2012 1:07 PM ET USA

    I often think that Cardinal Dolan is the victim of his own affable, outgoing personality, and as the others have pointed out so well, this affair may well jump up and bite him sooner rather than later.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Oct. 20, 2012 12:38 PM ET USA

    This was not a forum in which to instruct Obama or dissident Catholics on matters of our faith. It was a shameful public celebration with people who promote and assure laws for unrestricted abortion. How many unborn children lost their lives during these 'festivities'? How many Catholics were led astray by the Cardinal's appearnace? So 'raising money' trumps defending defenseless human life?

  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Oct. 20, 2012 2:42 AM ET USA

    As Mitt Romney predicted, the headlines are: MITT ROMNEY DINES WITH RICH PEOPLE. OBAMA EMBRACED BY CATHOLICS. The latter is the most important, one the Cardinal may some day regret. Our Lansing bishop expressed regret that he will not attend the anti-HHS rally because he will be ministering in one of the prisons and possibly checking it out. He asked that people visit him in prison, if he is ever incarcerated, opposing HHS. It may yet come to that.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Oct. 19, 2012 11:57 PM ET USA

    Great photograph; a good time was had by all.

  • Posted by: brownjudith2930 - Oct. 19, 2012 8:23 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Dolan has sent a very mixed message to the voting public by providing a big photo op for Obama-loving Democrats.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Oct. 19, 2012 6:23 PM ET USA

    What is really disturbing to me is the picture of Cardinal Dolan laughing it up with Obama on one side and Romney on the other side. I can't get that picture out of my mind.

  • Posted by: rpp - Oct. 19, 2012 1:14 PM ET USA

    I continue to believe that at one of the two featured guests, or his supporters, should never have been allowed to attend without a public recanting their support for abortion and gay "marriage".